Myra's Kitchen Blog  

Chia Seed Puddings
Tuesday, May 12, 2015

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In today’s video of chia seed puddings, I show how to make two delicious chia seed puddings. Chia seeds are touted for their powerful salutary benefits: Included among their vital nutrients are protein, fiber, antioxidants, and ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. It seems that nowadays people are shaking these micro-seeds into everything from cereals to salads, from baked goods to beverages. I’m not a fan of the dry chia sprinkle: Chia seeds are most digestible when allowed to soak and swell. Therefore, I favor adding them to blended concoctions, then leaving enough time for the tiny powerhouses to plump. The result is thickened puddings with luscious pebbly beads, reminiscent of tapioca.

The procedure for making chia seed pudding is quick, simple, and consistent. Whiz together a flavorful blend, stir in some chia, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the seeds to thicken. The array of potential flavor permutations are vast. In the video, I demonstrate two berry-based puddings, each one ideal to savor alone or to layer into a colorful parfait.  You’ll need a stand blender to pulverize the ingredients; a high-powered blender is the gold standard, but it’s not essential.

The first purée that I show has a base of blueberries. Start with 2 cups of the fruit, either fresh or frozen. If you’re using frozen, let the berries rest a few minutes to defrost. Add 1/2 cup cashews, ideally after having soaked them for 2 hours before draining. Soaking the cashews allows for maximum nutrient absorption and digestibility. The sweetener in this pudding is a mere 4 dates. Any variety of date (make sure to remove the pit!) is fine, but the medjool variety is the softest and sweetest. This resulting pudding is sweet enough without being cloying. A couple tablespoons coconut oil—virgin or aroma-free—will also help keep your blood sugar stable as well as ensure that the pudding has a luxurious texture. One tablespoon vanilla and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon complete the flavorings. A cup of liquid is necessary for proper blending. In the video, I use coconut water, but plain water would be fine as well. Give the ingredients a good whiz until well combined. Transfer the purée to a bowl or container, then stir in 6 tablespoons chia. The micro seeds need a bit of time to work their magic and swell. Transfer the pudding to the refrigerator and leave for 30 minutes minimum, preferably longer.

The next strawberry chia delight that I show in the video is simplicity itself. Blend well 3 cups strawberries (if frozen, defrost a bit), 1/4 cup raw honey, and 3/4 cup coconut milk, which lends the needed richness and body to the finished dish. Add a splash vanilla, and give a long enough whiz in the blender until the base is smooth. Transfer to a bowl or container, and stir in 1/4 cup chia. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, but longer is even better to allow for the seeds to expand as much as possible.

The puddings last refrigerated for at least a week, and they each yield 4 to 6 luscious servings. Either of them alone—or the two in combination—can make a great snack or low-sugar dessert. You can also leave them refrigerated for a convenient grab-and-go breakfast. One favorite breakfast of mine is the combination of puddings layered in a parfait or martini glass with sheep’s milk yogurt. The blend tastes tart and sweet, looks gorgeous, and contains just enough fat, fiber, and fruit to keep you happily sated until lunch.

 

Spring Greens Pie (kuku)
Saturday, May 2, 2015

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One of the first signs of spring is the abundance of greens that show up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores. In today’s video on how to make a greens kukuI take advantage of the copious selections and demonstrate a kuku, a Persian frittata which resembles a crustless quiche. While it’s baking, the pie forms a bottom crust as well as a top crust. The result is a luscious spring greens pie.

The selection of greens that I show in the video includes chicory, which adds a delightful bitterness, as well as arugula and watercress, which lend a bright peppery bite.  The more exotic additions include two that are just starting to show up at the farmer’s market: Claytonia, a delicate mild-flavored green; and sorrel, a delightfully lemony herb with a bright tart liveliness. Since this kuku lends itself to countless variations, you can also make it with the other spring greens you find or fancy, and mix in some fresh leafy herbs:  Basil, chives, cilantro, dill, and chervil are all excellent choices.

Begin by wilting the greens. A drop of water in the skillet gets the leaves off to a good start. Start with the amount that will fit in the pan, and add more as the greens start to cook. Add handfuls to the skillet, and use a tongs to turn the uncooked leaves to the bottom of the skillet. The heat of the pan and the cooked greens help cook the raw ones quickly. You’ll want about 4 cups of cooked greens and mixed herbs total; to end up with this amount, begin with 2 to 3 large bunches—about 3 to 4 pounds before cooking. No need to wilt the fresh herbs; simply chop them. When the greens are sufficiently wilted, transfer to a strainer set over a bowl, and allow to cool and drain. Press the greens against the strainer to remove any excess liquid. Transfer to a cutting board, chop into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.

While the greens are cooling, warm enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a medium skillet over medium heat, and add a heaping cup or so sliced onions. Sauté for a few minutes, toss in a few cloves minced garlic, and cook until the onions are caramelized.

Dollop a tablespoon butter (or coconut or olive oil) onto a 9-inch pie plate, and set the plate in a 350 degree oven to warm in the pan for a few minutes as you mix the ingredients for your pie together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 eggs. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, a tablespoon flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Since you’re using such a small amount of flour, even unbleached white flour is okay—so long as you don’t have gluten intolerance.  The flour in combination with the baking powder lends an extra lift to the pie, making it especially airy.

Stir in the chopped greens, the fresh herbs, the onions and the garlic. In the kuku in the video, I add also a cup of crumbled sheep’s milk feta as well as a cup of sheep’s milk gruyere. That touch of flavorful cheese imparts rich flavor, but the kuku is already certainly scrumptious when made without the dairy. Stir in a generous dusting of black pepper, and mix everything well. You’ll notice that the eggs bind the greens together inconspicuously and disappear into the batter.

By this time, the butter will have melted and the pan will be hot. Remove it from the oven and swirl the butter around so that it coats the pan evenly. Pat the filling into the pie plate, and return to the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, until you see some browning around the sides. Dollop another tablespoon of fat on top—the heat of the oven will spread it—and return the kuku to the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until it develops a gorgeous deep golden top crust.

This pie stays fresh for days in the refrigerator. You can just cut yourself a piece and heat up what you want to eat, or reheat the whole pan. The one-dish meal can be served any time of the day for a light meal or snack. In Judeo/Christian traditions, eggs are a symbol of rebirth and are featured on spring religious holidays. It feels appropriate to celebrate this long-awaited season with this delicious greens and eggs medley.

 

 

 

Cauliflower-crusted Pizzas
Thursday, April 16, 2015

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In today’s video on cauliflower-crusted pizzas, I show how to make a couple of variations on a cauliflower-crusted pizza. These delicious pizzas are light and low carb, yet as satisfying as traditional pizza. And, of course, you can vary the toppings to suit your preferences.

To begin, cut a medium-sized cauliflower into florets. Pulverize the florets in a food processor until they take on a crumbly, couscous-like texture. Because you’re grinding the cauliflower raw, you’re not in danger of turning it into a puree. Next, have ready a pot with about an inch of boiling water. Add the cauliflower and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, then pour into a fine mesh strainer to drain.  Let the cauliflower cool for a few minutes. Now—and this part is very important—wrap the cauliflower granules in a tea towel and squeeze to extract as much liquid as you can. You may be surprised at just how much water comes out. Finally, turn the squeezed mass into a bowl; by this time, the cauliflower actually has the texture of a dough, and you’re ready to flavor it.

The crust needs a binder; for this purpose, a couple of lightly beaten eggs are essential. To flavor the dough, stir in a teaspoon of dried thyme, and half that amount of garlic powder and salt. Next, decide whether or not you wish your crust to contain a little cheese or to be dairy free. Stir in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan for a delectable cheese version. For an equally scrumptious dairy-free variation, replace the cheese with 1/4 cup almond flour and 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast lends a cheese-like flavor to the combination. In the video, I demonstrate a half version of both the crust with cheese and the crust with almond flour.

The next step is to press out the crust on a parchment-covered baking sheet. A medium sized head of cauliflower should press into about two 8-inch pizzas. Press the crust down to about 1/8-inch thickness, leaving a raised border around the edges. You do need to bake it until golden before topping. 30 to 40 minutes in a 400˚F oven will color the crust just right. You can assemble the crusts and bake them up to a day in advance; refrigerate them until you’re ready to add the toppings and bake the pizzas.

I present two toppings in the video, but these are merely two ideas out of many. The first one is a classic combination of toppings: the requisite tomato pizza sauce and dollops of fresh mozzarella. Refrain from overdoing the mozzarella since it tends to spread a lot when it melts. This one also has crumbled cooked ground beef and wilted spinach.  The surface is then dusted with grated Parmesan.

The second is a goat cheese topping. Four ounces of soft cheese are mashed in a bowl with a clove of minced garlic, a dollop of Dijon mustard, a couple tablespoons fresh thyme, a tablespoon olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. Using an offset spatula makes spreading the cheese over the crust smooth and effortless. Both pizzas return to the oven for 10 minutes, until the toppings have colored, the cheese is melted, and everything is heated through.

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Transforming cauliflower into a crust is exciting, and the pizzas taste amazing. This is a deliciously fun way to have your pizza and your vegetables too!

 

Preserved Lemons
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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In today’s video on preserved lemons, I show how to make a condiment that can brighten so many of your dishes: preserved lemons. Best of all, they have real lasting power, remaining fresh in the refrigerator for an impressive six months or so. After I put up the lemons, I go on to demonstrate one way to use them in a delicious and easy dish of steamed black cod. Sure, you can purchase a jar of ready-made preserved lemons, but nothing beats the fresh taste of ones that you cure yourself. You’ll see from the video that they take only about five minutes of prep.

Use organic lemons for the best results; after all, you’ll be eating the softened rinds. The only other ingredient you need is salt (I recommend a good sea salt). You also need a very clean jar. You can sterilize your jar by immersing it in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Make sure to scrub and dry the lemons as well. How many you use depends on the size of your jar. In the demo, I use a pint-sized jar, but you can certainly use a larger one.

To prep the lemons, cut a sliver (a dime-sized piece) off of each end. Set the lemon on one end and, starting from the top, make a vertical cut three quarters of the way into the fruit, so that the two halves remain attached at the base: do not cut it in half. Turn the lemon upside down and make a second vertical cut at a 90-degree angle to the first, again three quarters of the way into the fruit. Fill each cut with as much salt as it will hold. Place a little salt at the bottom of the jar, then squish and push the lemons in. You’ll notice that lemon juice will rise to the top. Since the preserved lemons need to be covered in lemon juice, you may need to squeeze a couple of extra lemons to fill the jar. Screw on the lid, and turn the jar upside down a few times over the first few days to make sure that lemon juice is always covering the lemons.

After four to six weeks, your lemons will be pliable and ready to use. It’s the softened rind that is the most exciting part to add to your dishes. Its flavor is tangy, slightly fermented, with that unmistakable brightness that is associated with Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking.

I also demo two servings of steamed black cod. To make the steaming liquid, add 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/4 cup white wine, 2 cloves sliced garlic, a splash olive oil, and a couple tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon to a 4-quart pot. The steaming liquid will become the sauce, to which the preserved lemon in the steaming liquid will lend a bright citrus finish. Sprinkle each piece of cod with a dusting of salt, paprika, cayenne, and ground cumin. When the steaming liquid is bubbling and steam starts wafting through the steam holes, lay the fish on top of the basket and cover. It will be steamed to perfection in a mere 7 minutes. Plate the fish, pouring the steaming liquid (which now reduced, has become the sauce) over the fish.  A sprinkling of chopped green olives, parsley, and cilantro complements the other flavors.  Marvel at how this zesty and convenient condiment can add such lively flavor to a dish that is simple enough for weeknight dining, yet celebratory enough for entertaining company.

 

The Myriad Uses of Cooked Squash
Saturday, January 3, 2015

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‘Tis the season to be savoring sweet squash. In today’s video, I demonstrate the richness and versatility of cooked squash. With a tub of the bright orange flesh on hand, you can quickly whip up any number of autumnal dishes. You can keep cooked squash refrigerated for up to a week, or you can freeze it. Although there are all kinds of wonderful varieties of squash and pumpkin available in farmers’ markets, in the video I demonstrate with butternut: the smooth, flavorful workhorse of the squash world.

Cooked Butternut Squash

To prep the squash—use a 21/2 to 3-pound butternut—slice it down the middle, and place it face down on a parchment-covered baking sheet.  Roast it at 325˚F to 375˚F  (the temperature depends on what’s already in the oven cooking; anything within this range is good!) until very tender, about 45 minutes.  Rest the squash until cool enough to handle, then scoop out and discard the seeds, which is much easier to do after the squash is cooked. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and reserve.

The first recipe in the video is for a speedy soup.  To begin, in a medium pot sauté 1/2 cup of chopped leeks along with a tablespoon or so of minced ginger in a couple tablespoons fat (coconut oil, ghee, or extra virgin olive oil are all good) over medium heat. When the vegetables are softened, add a quart of stock—this is a great place to use a homemade chicken or vegetable broth—a can unsweetened coconut milk, the reserved squash flesh, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let the soup cook a few minutes to marry the flavors, then finish with a flick of cayenne and a splash of lime juice.  Voilà: a delicious soup! Serve up a hearty bowl dusted with chopped cilantro.

The second recipe is for a light yet substantial pumpkin pie-spiced breakfast pancake. The recipe makes 2 servings, but you can easily scale it up. Start with a couple tablespoons coconut flour in a bowl.  Add a mix of spices: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder; and a pinch of nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. Add a large pinch baking soda and salt, and whisk together the dry ingredients. Then add 1/2 cup squash flesh, a couple of lightly beaten eggs, a tablespoon maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoons melted fat (butter or coconut oil). Mix vigorously, and you’re ready to make pancakes.

To cook, film a griddle or nonstick skillet with oil until your hand held 1 inch above the pan is uncomfortable. This batter is a little more delicate than a typical flour-based batter; for best results, opt for medium-size pancakes, and above all,  resist crowding the pan. Drop the batter—a tablespoon at a time—into the sizzling skillet until you have four swelling hotcakes. Leave the pancakes alone until browned and toasty on the bottom, then flip and cook a few more minutes on the second side. Transfer to a plate, and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve these airy cakes with butter, fruit, or a drizzle more sweet syrup.

These are just two of the many wonderful dishes that you can make with squash flesh. Yes, it takes 45 minutes or so to cook the squash, but the oven does the work, so it’s not your time. With cooked squash on hand, you can whip any number of delectables together in minutes.

 

Savory Breakfast Muffins
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

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In today’s Breakfast Muffins Video I demonstrate how to make two different kinds of vegetable muffins. These light, yet substantial morsels make a quick breakfast-on-the-go, or a convenient elegant vegetarian side dish. They last for four or five days in the refrigerator, ready to be reheated and enjoyed at a moment’s notice.

The first muffin shown in the video is the curried cauliflower version. Here’s how to make it: Start with a large head of cauliflower, which yields 10 to 12 cups when cut into florets. Take 1/3 of those florets, slice them, toss them in a light coating of olive oil with a bit of salt, and spread them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in a preheated 400˚ oven for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the remainder of the cauliflower until very tender, then transfer to a large bowl and mash until crumbly. While the cauliflower is roasting and steaming,  sauté 2 cups red onions in 2 tablespoons ghee until softened.  Stir in 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 2 cloves minced garlic. At this point, you’ll notice that the kitchen smells so enticing! Transfer this aromatic melange to the bowl of steamed, mashed cauliflower.  Stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of cayenne and black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and a couple tablespoons cornmeal. Bind the vegetables  with 3 lightly beaten eggs.

By this time, the roasted cauliflower is ready to remove from the oven. Set aside 12 slices to crown the top of the muffins. Chop the remainder of the roasted cauliflower into small pieces, and stir into the bowl with a few tablespoons chopped cilantro. The verdant-flecked yellow cauliflower mix positively glows! Spoon evenly into muffin tins—the silicon kind is my favorite for ease—and bake about 20 minutes until golden and firm.

The second muffin presented in the video is a take-off on a spanakopita. To begin, sauté a cup of chopped onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until nice and softened, about 7 minutes. Let the onions cook while you wilt the greens. In the video version, I use a combination of Swiss chard and spinach—a pound and a half all together, but use whatever greens looks freshest and most appealing. Wilt the washed greens in a skillet, using tongs to push the wilted leaves to the bottom. There’s no need to add extra liquid, and there’s no need to use a large skillet; the big pile of greens you started with shrinks down to an astonishingly small amount! You do need to drain the cooking liquid from the wet greens well, however. To do this, let them cool in a strainer and grab handfuls from which to wring out the excess liquid. Alternatively, transfer the greens to a ricer— I show this technique in the video—and squeeze out the liquid while the greens are piping hot. What a great use for a tool designed for potatoes! Next, dump the greens out on a cutting board, chop them into small pieces, and transfer them to a bowl.

Now stir in the rest of the ingredients. Fresh herbs enliven the mixture; the combination of 1/4 cup dill and 1/2 cup parsley lends delightful freshness.  Sprinkle in some nutmeg and mix in a 1 1/2 cups feta cheese. Goat’s or sheep’s milk are especially delicious and digestible. Add 2 tablespoons of your favorite flour—I use rice in the video—and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and salt. 4 eggs bind the mixture together; now the batter is ready to be divided into muffin holders and baked to perfection, about 20 minutes at 375˚.

Improvise with other vegetables as well, and enjoy these savory treats!

 

Fermented Tomato Salsa
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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In today’s Video, I show how to ferment a tomato salsa; making this lactoferment is a great way to celebrate and enjoy the luscious tomatoes available right now. You may not be familiar fermented salsa: but it is truly delicious and you get to reap the benefits of your labor quickly. Just 24 to 48 hours of fermentation results in a salsa with a delightfully tangy flavor and a long-lasting life. Salt (or a mixture of salt and whey) initiates the fermentation process; it inhibits the growth of undesirable bacteria long enough for the lactobacilli, the delightful microorganisms already present on plants, to be converted to lactic acid. The nutrient content of the salsa is increased; the versatile condiment turns into a healthy probiotic.

I demonstrate the two versions in the video: one made with salt, and one made with a combination of salt and whey. Fresh whey is simple to make. You place a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl and add a couple cups of yogurt to the strainer. Within an hour or so, you’ll have a decent amount of liquid in the bowl: that’s the whey. You can transfer it to a covered jar and keep it stored in the refrigerator for up to six months. The longer you strain the yogurt, the more whey you’ll have and the thicker your yogurt will be. You can strain it for a few hours to produce thick, rich Greek-style yogurt, or you can strain it overnight to produce even thicker yogurt cheese. Whey gives the ferment a jumpstart, and the version with whey is usually ready within one day. Alternatively, you can leave out the whey and just add salt; you’ll still get wonderful results within two days.

For either version, start with 1 ½ pounds tomatoes, diced small. The salsa is especially vibrant with a mélange of colorful tomatoes; a quart’s worth of quartered cherry tomatoes is also suitable. Next add a couple cloves minced garlic and 1 or 2 minced jalapeños to the tomatoes. It’s also good to add something oniony: I favor a mix of red onion and scallions, about ½ cup of each. No salsa is complete without a mound of chopped cilantro, so add at least ½ cup. To this, add ¼ cup lime juice. Now it’s up to you either to add 2 teaspoons salt or 1 teaspoon salt plus ¼ cup whey.

Either way, make sure to push the salsa down into your 1-quart jar so that the liquid covers the top. Cover tightly; then leave the jar out on the counter for 1 to 2 days. Within a day or two, you’ll notice bubbles in the liquid. At that point, transfer your ferment to the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for a few months. Use it to add zest to your meals and snacks.

 

 

Building a Satisfying Salad
Monday, July 14, 2014

Building a Satisfying Salad

In today’s video, I demonstrate one of my favorite summer lunches, a beautiful light yet substantial main course salad. The focus of the video is on the components that make up a satisfying salad. My ideal summer salad has a homemade dressing, a gorgeous mix of greens, a protein, a raw vegetable or two, a fermented vegetable, a sprinkling of something fatty, and some kind of crunchy, dehydrated vegetable or sprouted chip. This composed salad lends itself to infinite variations, and I explore three. Happily, all of these colorful, multi-textured salads take only minutes to assemble, and they are hearty enough to keep you going strong until dinner.

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The most important factor in a salutary salad is the dressing. Bottled salad dressings are not healthy; they all contain inflammatory polyunsaturated oils, such as soybean oil, as their primary ingredient. Making your own dressing, however, is quick and cost-effective as well as healthy and delicious. Here’s how to make a basic vinaigrette: First, place a damp dishtowel in a ring shape on your counter to hold your bowl steady. Doing this will free both hands. Place a dab of mustard in the bowl, then add a tablespoon of minced shallots. Next, pour in a couple tablespoons of your favorite vinegar (the dressing used in the video is golden balsamic), then whisk in about 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. You can also add a splash of flax seed oil to boost the omega-3 content. Stir in a few tablespoons of fresh herbs, and make sure to include a generous sprinkling of salt and black pepper. Transfer the dressing to a jar, and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. You now have a delicious dressing available whenever you want to enjoy a salad.

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Next, pick a selection of delectable greens. Bins at your local greenmarket contain the most exciting varieties; but mesclun, arugula, and watercress are readily available in most grocery stores. Toss the greens with just enough dressing to coat, and place in your salad bowl.

Now for the composed part: Top the greens with a serving of protein. The three examples in the video feature tinned crab, smoked mackerel, and lamb pastrami. Other delicious pantry staples or ready-to-use proteins include tinned sardines, salmon, tuna, smoked oysters, and shrimp. Cold proteins, such as poached fish, chicken, turkey, or beef from a previous meal can be used as well.

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Since so many fine fresh vegetables are available in the summer, be sure to add a fresh raw vegetable or two. In the video, I show grated radishes and carrots, thinly sliced beets, sliced snow peas, shelled English peas, and whole sugar snap peas, which, when fresh, are delicious eaten raw. I recommend also including a fermented vegetable; not only are fermented vegetables refrigerator staples, but they lend a wonderful tangy flavor to the salad, and they make the proteins in the salad easy to digest.

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Next, sprinkle over your salad a “fatty” component such as nuts, olives, or crumbled cheese. A little of these go a long way.

The last essential ingredient—again, something that keeps well in the pantry—is some kind of a crunchy vegetable chip. There are so many tasty dehydrated vegetable chips on the market now: kale chips, onion chips, arugula chips, and dehydrated vegetable crackers, to name a few. A little mound adds a fun element to the salad.

Mix and match and come up with all kinds of salad variations. I hope that you develop your own hot weather favorite combinations and that you turn out to be as excited about these salads as I am!

 

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Food for Travel: Bento Box Meal
Saturday, June 14, 2014

Smoked salmon, purple potatoes, green beans, purple potatoes, pesto, pepper sauce

smoked salmon, purple potatoes, green beans, pesto, red pepper sauce

Video: Bento Box Meal

Since I travel a lot, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time figuring out how to feed myself well in transit. In today’s video, I demonstrate a meal that is simple, nourishing, and travel-worthy. A bento box makes the ideal travel companion; it holds a single-sized meal in a compact container. Airplanes pose singular challenges. Because of the lack of moisture in the cabin and a flying altitude of 30,000 feet; a dry nose, a cottony mouth, and a subdued set of taste buds are common complaints. That is why, when it comes to packing some travel-worthy food, a little strategic planning is in order.

I have developed specific criteria for a tidy bento box meal. The food I pack can’t be goopy or runny: I don’t want a drippy item spilling all over me when I’m in a passenger seat in which I can barely move. Every item also has to be hearty enough to hold up and stay fresh for hours at room temperature. Because of the inevitable last-minute rush before a trip, the meal must be easy to prepare. To minimize waste, I try to make use of the straggler herbs and leaves in my refrigerator. And importantly, I want my on-the-road or in-the-sky meal to be nourishing. In the video, I demo one favorite travel spread that fulfills all of my criteria, with room for variations.

The meal is built around a thick slab of smoked salmon, which I keep stored in my freezer. Next come the vegetables: one starchy and one not. I simply blanch the vegetables in salted water until tender; it’s a good method for keeping the vegetables fresh for long periods of time. One of my current favorites is the purple potato, a hearty, antioxidant-rich, colorful vegetable. In the video I use green beans as my second vegetable, but I sometimes substitute sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, all robust travelers.

The condiments keep the meal lively. To use up perishables left in my refrigerator and to jazz up the simple vegetables and salmon, I typically make a dairy-free pesto. The pesto I demonstrate includes 2 cups of a combination of parsley, dill, scallions, and sorrel to which I add ¾ cup walnuts. Most varieties of nuts and seeds make zesty pestos, so again, I use what I have around. I then add 1 teaspoon of light-colored miso, ½ teaspoon salt, a couple tablespoons lemon juice and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. I give the whole mix a whirl until smooth. Not only do I have a zesty topping for the fish and vegetables, I have extra pesto to freeze.

The other condiment demoed here is a roasted red pepper sauce. Taking only a few minutes to whirl together, it tastes delicious on both the vegetables and the salmon; it also is a good fit for the teeny compartment in the bento box. I blend together ½ cup of jarred roasted peppers (in the video I use the flavorful piquillo), 1 clove garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon vinegar (apple cider, sherry, or red wine), and ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Half a teaspoon honey balances the flavors perfectly. This zingy red dressing lasts refrigerated for over a week.

Either one of the sauces is all you need to add spark to the meal, but the two together are exponentially delectable. When you pack a meal as satisfying as this one, traveling becomes a lot more enjoyable.

 

Home Made Nut Butters
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Finished Almond Butter

Finished Almond Butter

In today’s video, I show how to make nut butters from scratch. Not only is homemade nut butter more delicious and economical than the store-bought variety, it’s a lot more digestible. After you do a small amount of preparation, it’s also quite simple to make.

Nut Butter Video

Nuts contain an enzyme inhibitor called phytic acid, which keeps them protected from rancidity and growth. They won’t germinate until the right conditions—moisture and time— are present. You can mimic nature’s process by soaking the nuts overnight in water with a little salt (a tablespoon per pound) for flavor. The next step is to drain and rinse the nuts before spreading them on a parchment-covered baking tray. Bake them in an oven set to 300 degrees for about an hour or so— until dry and toasted —to make nut butter that tastes roasted. You can also dry the nuts slowly at low heat, ranging from 115˚ in a dehydrator to 200˚ in an oven. Just make sure that whatever the heat that you use (the lower the temperature, the longer the nuts take to crisp), you don’t remove the nuts until they are really dry.  At this point, you can store the prepared nuts at room temperature for up to a month. In today’s video, I’m starting with 3 cups of almonds, about a pound, which turns into 2 cups of butter.

The one piece of equipment needed to make nut butter is a food processor fitted with the metal blade. There’s also one essential little trick:  rub the inside of the food processor with oil—coconut oil is especially good—which keeps the butter from sticking to the sides. Add the nuts and whirl, and keep processing until you have what you want. That’s all there is to it. In the first stage, the nuts turn to powder. After a couple of minutes of whirling, the nuts start to stick together and clump. At this point, you’ll be able to appreciate how that preliminary greasing keeps the nuts from sticking to the sides. Don’t stop at this first stage; you’ll have better results if you let the processor go longer. After 6 to 12 minutes, the natural oils in the almonds are released and rise to the top; and you have a creamy, smooth, finished butter. Transfer the finished product to jars, and store in the refrigerator.

In the video, the almond butter took only 6 minutes, but sometimes it does take longer: be patient, and keep on whirling. The cashew butter I demo in the video took 9 minutes of processing. Cashews, by the way, should be soaked only 4 to 6 hours or else their texture can be compromised.  Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts benefit from an overnight soak. I’ve kept the nut butters here simple, but if you like you can stir or pulse in all kinds of flavorings once the butter is finished: salt, raisins, honey, or preserves are just a few ideas. Embellished or simple, the glistening spreads are truly irresistible, and they really do feel lighter on the belly than any store-bought varieties. Once you make your own, you’re likely to be as excited about these as I am, and you’re not likely to want to return to commercial selections.

 

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Photo: Tess Steinkolk

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